By Sheri Neely
The legendary Bar-Kays celebrated 50 years in the music industry with a red carpet gala with friends and fans from all across the country on Thursday, December 4 at the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts in Memphis. Hosted by Elise Neal and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, performances included George Clinton, ConFunkShun, The Dazz Band, Mary Jane Girls, Willie Clayton, Sir Charles Jones, Jazze Pha, The SOS Band, Doug E. Fresh and the reunion of the United We Funk All-Stars. Special guest appearances included David Porter, Al Bell, Otis Redding, III, daughter of Rick James Ty James and Cherelle.
The benefit gala supported the Bar-Kays coined “Fab Five” nonprofit organizations: The Down Syndrome Association of Memphis & the Mid-South, St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, United Way of the Mid-South, The STAX Music Academy and The Allen Jones/Marjorie Barringer/Bar-Kays Scholarship Fund in support of LeMoyne Owen College.
Special presentations were made at a private VIP reception sponsored by the Hard Rock Café Memphis downtown on Beale Street. The Bar-Kays’ James Alexander and Larry Dodson, Sr. were presented with their honorary guitars from Hard Rock Cafe of Memphis’ general manager Julien Salley and Memphis & Shelby County Music commissioner Johnnie Walker.
They received awards and special presentations at the gala as well, including a proclamation from the State of Tennessee presented by Congressman Steve Cohen. They also received a presentation from the City of Los Angeles by award-winning filmmaker Keith O’Derek. The Bar-Kays performed during the historical WattsStax Music Festival held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on August 20, 1972. Organized by Memphis’ Stax Records to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the Watts riots, it is known as one of the top most important civil rights contributions to music history.
The red carpet gala was followed by a private VIP after party which was also held on Beale Street and sponsored by BB King’s Blues Club and Restaurant. It was attended by many of the performers and special guests from the gala.